bear basin grand traverse loop

Happy Hiking: Bear Basin

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Bear Basin Nordic Center

Bear Basin is a Nordic center located in McCall, Idaho.  In the summer, it is a popular mountain biking and hiking area, though more so for mountain biking.  After having driven a decent amount to get to trailheads recently, I decided I wanted a place with an easy hike that was easily reachable.  Bear Basin met both of these objectives.

Getting to Bear Basin

It is just minutes away from downtown McCall and features a network of connecting trails, allowing users to go for as long or short as they want.  I found a 4.8 mile easy hike on AllTrails called Bear Basin Grand Traverse Loop.

The trailhead is located off N Club Hill Road, and the large asphalt parking lot includes pit toilets.  The Bear Basin Grand Traverse loop is on the west side of the park.  The Grand Traverse Loop is not really called that on the trail signs, so initially I was a little confused and thankful for the AllTrails map.  The loop connects Baby Bear Trail, Mama Bear Road, Grand Traverse Trail, and Westy Trail.

Hiking the Bear Basin Grand Traverse Loop

  • Distance:  4.8 miles
  • Type: Easy, Lollipop Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 498 ft
  • Other: Dogs Allowed
  • All Trails Link

The loop begins through a sparse forest which yields to hillsides of balsam root and camas lilies. Not too familiar with the Idaho mountains, I was surprised to see the camas lilies.  I thought they were mostly in the sunbelt, and a main reason why I visited the Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh Wildlife Management Area.

Anyway, the mixture of yellow and purple flowers dotting the green grass with a view of snow-capped mountains in the distance was a pleasant surprise.  I was also surprised that I only ran into about 10 people on the Friday evening of Memorial Day Weekend.

It was so quiet most of the way, I probably could have let Annie off-leash, but given Bear Basin is a sheep herding area with protective dogs, I chose otherwise.  Fortunately, we didn’t see any sheep.  But naturally, one dog owner had their dog off-leash, she couldn’t control it, and of course it came right up to Annie.

Luckily, it didn’t bound at her and there was no mountainside to fall down like my experience at Taylor Canyon.  Additionally, I have resorted to the pinch collar specifically for these situations which have occurred on every hike in Idaho where I have seen someone with a dog.  While it’s not my favorite choice, Annie respects it and doesn’t react, which makes the irresponsible dog owner situation safer.

annie at bear basin

The return follows along the Westy Trail through the trees and on a boardwalk.  There was nothing to write home about, though I did spot another wooden heart like the one at Goose Creek Falls.  I wonder if someone is on a mission to hang a heart on the trails they hike?

In all, it was a peaceful trek through the woods while dodging a handful of polite mountain bikers.  Without any water features and the trail catering to mountain bikers, I wouldn’t make Bear Basin my first pick.  That said, as previously mentioned, I did enjoy the wildflowers, so I’m glad I unknowingly timed the hike to coincide with the blooms in late May.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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